Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Lets Not Become British Again

The British Government authorizes the King's Fund to report on the National Health Service and Sir Derek Wanless releases an update to his pivotal 2002 study. The British Press summarizes the new findings in their headlines.

Evening Standard: Billions squandered as the NHS fails to deliver. Times Online: Man who helped NHS to £46bn says it wasted the money and needs more.

Socialized Medicine – Universal Healthcare – Healthy Wisconsin – what ever you want to call it – is not about health care. It is about government controlling the money used to pay for health services. One courageous blogger risks mind numbing dullness and plows through the updated assessment of the NHS finances.

Wanless Shocker: The bald facts are these. Since his first report in 2002, total NHS spending has surged by nearly 50%, or £43.2bn. That's a real terms growth of 7.4% pa, and takes us close to the EU average for health spending as a percentage of GDP. So as of now, nobody can argue the NHS is substantially underfunded.

But as we've said many times on BOM, spending money is easy: it's what you get back that's counts. And across 321 weighty pages Wanless confirms that we've had abysmal value. To start with, getting on for half of the increased spending (£18.9bn) was gobbled up in those big pay and price increases (see many previous blogs on the NHS pay deals). More money has been poured into hopeless projects like the NPfIT, where the report demands a full drains up. Second, although there has been a huge increase in NHS staff numbers - up by one-third to 1.3m - their productivity has fallen sharply.

The massive increase in spending goes to pay higher salaries for more public employees resulting in diminishing productivity. Sound familiar? WEAC, WEAC, anybody? Of course the welfare state has their defenders and this is about as succinct as you can state it.

Caring Choices: it is the state’s duty to guarantee a basic level of care to everyone irrespective of means. That’s what a decent welfare state should be about.

In that statement is the crux of budget stalemate in the Wisconsin legislature. There are people who want government to have primary responsibility for the lives of the population and there are people, like myself, who believe government should be the last resort of help, for free and independent individuals.